Garcia full of pride as Lille end long title wait

PARIS, May 22, 2011 (AFP) - Lille coach Rudi Garcia heralded his players and predicted that they would be "friends for life" after they captured the French league title with a 2-2 draw at Paris Saint-Germain.

Second-placed Marseille's 2-2 draw against Valenciennes rendered Lille's result immaterial, but Garcia's side still managed to procure the point they had needed prior to kick-off to end a 57-year wait for French football's top prize.

AFP - Lille supporters celebrate their team winning the French football Championship May 21, 2011 in Lille, France.

It also completed a famous double -- the second in their history -- following last weekend's 1-0 defeat of PSG in the French Cup final.

"There is a lot of pride," said Garcia, who invited his entire back-room staff to join him at the post-match press conference at Parc des Princes.

"There was a lot of work from the players. They realised that work was the essential quality.

"It's a victory for the squad. They don't realise that in 10 or 15 years, it will be unique and they'll become friends for life."

With 65 goals in 37 games, Lille are the division's top scorers and have earned plenty of plaudits for the quality of their attacking football under Garcia over the past two seasons.

"It's strong," added the Lille coach. "We've always wanted to go forward, to have the ball and play our game. The players thanked us (the staff) in the changing room."

Lille are one of 11 clubs to have completed the league-French Cup double, having previously achieved the feat in 1946.

Garcia believes this season's success has secured his team a place in the pantheon of the country's greatest ever club sides.

"There are some special reference points among the teams that have won the double," he said.

"The Bordeaux of Aime Jacquet (1987), the Marseille of Jean-Pierre Papin (1989), the Auxerre of Guy Roux (1996). We've done it."

Polish winger Ludovic Obraniak, Lille's French Cup match-winner, put Lille ahead after five minutes at Parc des Princes on Saturday, only for France striker Guillaume Hoarau to equalise in first-half injury-time.

Hoarau was sent off early in the second half after receiving a second booking for diving, with PSG coach Antoine Kombouare also being given his marching orders for losing his cool with the fourth official.

Moussa Sow put Lille ahead with his 22nd goal of the season -- moving him clear of Lorient's Kevin Gameiro in the top scorer standings -- but Mathieu Bodmer rescued a point by crashing home a fine goal off the crossbar in the 73rd minute.

"It's a big disappointment but there's also a lot of pride at the players' performance," said Kombouare, whose side must win at Saint-Etienne next weekend to stand any chance of pipping Lyon to a Champions League place.

"Yes, I lost it, but it doesn't matter... I won't talk about the refereeing but you (the media) are big enough to judge for yourselves and realise what happened... We fight on despite all the blows we receive."

Marseille coach Didier Deschamps, who led his side to last year's Ligue 1 title in his first season in charge, was gracious in defeat.

"They've been the most consistent, so congratulations to Lille; to all their players, to Rudi Garcia, to their staff and their directors," he told Canal+.

"There's only one thing to say: bravo."

Lille's players will celebrate their league success with their fans at the city's Place de la Republique on Sunday.

The city's mayor Martine Aubry, head of France's Socialist Party, said the team had helped reverse some of the damage inflicted by the France national team's bad-tempered first-round exit at last year's World Cup.

"The dream we've been waiting for since 1954 has become reality and fills with happiness all the people of Lille, of the north, and all football lovers who have become passionate about this team," she said.

"LOSC have reconciled the French with football and made us forget about the World Cup."

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